There’s a wealth of information to help you build a customer development program. After all, it’s an essential step towards becoming a customer-centric company.
Yet despite the amount of resources available on this topic, it’s still remarkably easy to make critical mistakes early on if you’re not careful.
One survey of SaaS founders found that some 75 percent don’t send customer development surveys each month, less than 10 percent have qualified buyer personas and only 50 percent do multivariate and A/B tests—yet they still think their companies are getting customer development right.
We’re going to help you avoid some of the most common pitfalls so you can build a solid foundation and scale your Voice of the Customer program with ease.
Take a look at the top 5 things you should 100% avoid when getting started with a Voice of the Customer program.
1. Don’t start talking to customers without knowing what you’re looking for
We know you’re eager to get your hands dirty and start talking to customers. But hang on just a tick. Have you even spelled out a proper definition of your Voice of the Customer program yet? Treat this program like a scientific experiment in marathon form.
To get things off the ground, start here:
- Identify your ideal customer. Flesh them out:
- Where do they live?
- What role are they in?
- How much money do they make?
Craft this into a detailed ‘customer hypothesis’. We used the ‘SPA Treatment’ from Customer Development Labs as a helpful exercise to ensure we had a well-informed customer segment.
- Spell out the problems they are trying to solve (or for B2Bers, the problem you think your customers are trying to solve). Articulate your problem hypothesis. How do you think your product solves their problem?
- Build out your Voice of the Customer customer goal. Through steps one and two, you know both who you want to speak with and what problem you’re trying to solve. This allows you to build out your Voice of the Customer goal. One complete goal that should be considered and woven into every single question you ask during your interviews. We’ll get to that part later on.
Once you’ve nailed down your ideal customer profile, you can break out your conversations into a few different buckets.
For example, we focus on paying customers, prospects (newly won or lost leads), and general market interviews (those who fit the bill but aren’t in any stage of the pipeline).
2. Don’t launch your Voice of the Customer program without getting buy-in from other teams
At Kayako, we strongly believe that the sum of every company is greater than its individual parts.
Every team brings something to the table that helps to shape your unique customer experience.
Together you are one team, one unit, fighting for one goal. So it makes sense that letting other teams in on your VoC fun – this will only benefit you in the long run.
Share the plans you’ve made with marketing, sales, engineering, and anyone else.. Hoarding this information to yourself is unproductive, and you lose out on a chance to give your team some credit.
Expect different perspectives from different departments in regard to your program plans. This is a good thing!
Listen to their feedback, compile it, organize it, and decide for yourself how to incorporate it into your program plans so far.
Despite its importance, this step is often skipped.
If the idea of sharing this information with other teams gives you a sense of dread, stop and ask yourself why that is. Consider this your beta test for your Voice of the Customer program. Internal alignment is key.
3. Don’t waste everyone’s time asking the wrong questions
Okay, at this point you’re almost ready to go. Just one little detail left to iron out: what the heck are you going to say?
So much time and thought went into crafting your customer and problem hypotheses, getting your internal teams on board and paying attention, and getting customers or prospects to agree to speak with you.
The worst mistake you can make is blowing it by asking the wrong questions.
Remember that Voice of the Customer goal you crafted in Step 1? Keep it near you and visible with every question you write.
There’s no room for fluff in a 20-30 minute chat.
Consider how each question inches you closer to understanding their pain, their aspirations, and the day-to-day reality somewhere in between.
Here are some examples to get you started:
Open with some easy icebreakers:
- Can you tell me about yourself, your position, and your team?
- What does your day look like? What’s your standard workflow?
Continue to drill down into that day-to-day.
- What’s the hardest part of your day?
- What tasks take up the most time in your day?
Drill down into their unique goals. Take a SPIV approach (Situation, Problem, Implication, Value)
- S: What goals are you and your team on the hook for meeting monthly/quarterly/yearly?
- How are you achieving those goals?
- Are your goals part of the overall company mission or actionable on an employee level?
- P: What problems do you face in reaching those goals?
- I: What does [keyword or phrase for your solution] mean for you?
- V: What are the key underlying goals to investing in [focused keyword/solution]?
Stop here. Take a breather and make some chit chat. If at this point you still don’t feel like your problem hypothesis has been validated or invalidated, try some of these questions:
- Do you find it hard to integrate a focus on [focused keyword/solution] into your team?
- How important is [focused keyword/solution] to you? To your team?
- What are the main motivations driving you to devote time/energy to [focused keyword/solution]?
- What does your dream solution for [focused keyword/solution] look like?
In understanding your customer’s pain and idyllic aspirations, you begin to build a honed spectrum within which your product must exist and resonate.
Keeping your goals front and center throughout the interview will ensure you’re staying on track and asking the right questions at the right time.
4. Don’t waste hours manually reaching out when simple automation is available
Don’t get me wrong – there’s nothing wrong with rolling up your sleeves and cranking out a deluge of personalized interview requests. But by the very nature of Kayako, we always look for ways to automate the basics and work on bigger and better projects more deserving of our time.
Most companies today use some sort of CMS or marketing automation tool to keep their contacts organized like Hubspot, Marketo, and ExactTarget. Even pure email tools like Mailchimp offer a suite of automation tools that would help you to automate the brunt of the outreach requests.
The best way to do this is with a workflow.
Create smart lists for newly won customers as well as lost leads, and lost deals. Create separate workflows for these audiences and set up a delayed email send requesting a quick 30-minute chat.
Things to consider for your workflow:
- Lifecycle stage
- Lead status
- Lead type
- Campaign or lead source
- Follow-up tasks in Salesforce or internal notifications
- Appropriate timing and delays for your emails to be sent
It’s critical to frame this email request not as an additional sales pitch.
This is a purely educational interview that will help you and your team to do your jobs better. This is not an opportunity to upsell; although, if the conversation naturally steers itself in that direction, I say go for it.
If at first you don’t receive many bites, play with your language to hone the message, or consider adding an incentive element to encourage.
5. (Most importantly) Do not keep your insights to yourself/your team
With a good amount of preparation and a lot of listening, you will begin to uncover valuable customer insights in no time. With every personal experience and pain point you jot down, you’ll start seeing your customers in a new light and from new angles.
Find a way to organize this information early on. JIRA Wikis, Trello cards, or whatever it takes to create an archive of insights.
Oh, and record every single interview. We use GoToMeeting to alleviate pains related to geographic differences, allow for multiple team members on one call, and record our calls with ease.
Once you’ve got 5-10 customer interviews logged, review and analyze them.
- How many confirmed your problem hypothesis?
- How many invalidated it?
Whatever you do, do not keep this information to yourself.
Even if you were way off in your problem hypothesis. That is a valid result and worthy of sharing internally.
Even undesirable results are positive because they show progress, and they prove that you are going through the process towards a valid, substantiated customer segment.
To help you out, we’re including a free voice of the customer report template for sharing your insights and findings throughout your company.
Remember, keeping your internal teams rallying by your side and informed on your customers and their real problems will only serve you well.
Why the customer’s voice is important
While customer feedback isn’t the only thing that should drive your product roadmap or business strategy, it is most certainly a key ingredient. Having proper feedback loops in place for customer development takes thought, time, and a healthy level of buy-in from internal teams.
But when you do develop a program in which administrative work is automated and you are routinely connecting with real customers and real voices, the returns on that initiative are boundless.
Continue your process until you’ve honed your ideal customer profile. Remember to keep relaying feedback to your internal teams. Fight to have your customer development program influence your product roadmap, your brand messaging, your voice.
Most importantly, never give up. Keep reaching out and listening until the voice of your customer sounds just like your own.